After the Republican convention was shortened because of Hurricane Isaac, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters in Tampa, “These are very expensive propositions to put on. I’m not sure that having a four-day convention, for the future, makes a lot of sense.” The Post asked former politicians and others for their thoughts on the future of political conventions.
Chairman emeritus of the Democratic National Committee; former governor of Vermont
Every four years there is a predictable call, usually from jaded members of the media, to abandon the quadrennial political conventions. They argue that the rhetoric and pageantry are empty and that there is too little drama in the all-but-assured nominations. While there is a kernel of truth to these arguments, political conventions serve useful purposes and will be with us a while longer.
The conventions — which I predict will be three-day events from now on — allow each party to directly present their message and candidates to the American people without media interpretation. Appalled as I was by the disingenuous content of Paul Ryan’s speech, the American people deserve the chance to have an unfiltered look at the candidates as they wish to represent themselves.
The networking that takes place outside of the halls is essential for future party-building as activists and party stalwarts build relationships.
I guarantee you that for every young delegate who tried to schmooze his or her way to the top in Tampa or Charlotte, there was a young delegate telling Republicans that they have to step out of the hate business when it comes to gays and immigrants, or telling Democrats they have to reform entitlements.
Director of the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics; communications director for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign
Watching this year’s conventions was a little like watching a basketball team practice without an opponent on the court. You may recognize players, but there’s no way to tell how good the team is until you see it against the competition. Hearing one side of a two-way argument over the course of a week is largely unsatisfying for the media and for voters. So, except for the most fervent supporters of both parties, the country has pretty much stopped paying attention.
The conventions clearly can’t continue in their current format, but they provide a necessary opportunity for the two parties to express themselves to voters. The answer is not to hold them sequentially but, rather, simultaneously.
If the conventions were held at the same time, the two parties would be forced to adjust and readjust their presentations, to decide whether to stay on message or to respond to the opposition, and to engage in a week-long contest of beliefs, priorities and worldviews. Provide one hour for each of the nominees on Wednesday and Thursday nights to deliver their acceptance speeches to the entire country without interference, but otherwise force both sides to admit that there is another perspective to the discussion, one that needs to be acknowledged and answered — in real time.